Building the Big Top

Here is a little look at the creation process for the Carnival Diablo Big Top. Enjoy the journey...

60 Feet of canvas
Drove to Toronto to buy 60 feet of canvas for the bannerline.
Putting the boards up
I had to create a special wall to paint the bannerline. Basically it is there to stretch each banner while I paint them upright. I turned my living room into a shop for 3 months.
Soaking the canvas
One of the first things I had to do after getting the canvas back from the seamstress was soak it in hot water, so that it would shrink down to it's final size.
Hanging the first banner
This was the first banner hung up for painting. All the corners of the canvas were professionally sewn with 4 rows of stitching so that they would be strong enough to hold up to the inclement weather.

I'd like to thank Edith Chartier for being a great seamstress and seaming all of my banners!
Creating a background
Each banner had it's own special background created that would look aged and weathered. It is important to me to create a interesting foundation to work on. I have spent years perfecting this technique.
The start of the first banner
I decided to tackle one of the hardest banners first. A portrait of myself in character. The process to this point was around 14 hours of painting.
My palette
When I am mixing colors while painting I find using my hand is the best palette.
Adding detail
Next I started adding the details that tell the story of who I am. This is a rather whimsical painting and I had a lot of fun working on it.
The face
All though I live with my face on a daily basis, I find it is hard to capture my own likeness in a painting. I spent quite a few hours toying with this part of the banner to try and capture the essence to who I am.
McClelland The Master Mystifier
The finished banner.
It starts with a sketch
All of my ideas start with a sketch. This is an idea I had for the Mystic Menagerie banner. I wanted something that was not just a group of paintings of exotic artifacts, but a cohesive whole. In the end this banner became the most whimsical.
Laying down the background
This banner was going to be bright and colorful, so I wanted to have a background that really popped. I decided on orange because historically Sideshow banners had bright orange borders. Why? Because orange is an attractor color. Your eye is immediately drawn to the color.
Starting the foreground
With all banner painting you work your way from the back to the front. Dark's to lightest.

I created a contrast by having the center frame in a lime green against the orange so that it would pop.
Mystic Menagerie
The completed banner.
Another banner stretched
The third banner was soaked for 4 hours in hot water and then stretched onto the wall board.
The 3rd banner background
The third banner was created with a purple background, because the color purple apart being a royal color, also is seen as the most putrid color on the color scale. For some reason this color can bring on nausea in some people.
Painting details
The 3rd banner is of Vassago, our newest Attraction. I wanted this banner to have a pseudo Victorian Sci-Fi feel.
Vassago The Mechanical Marvel
The completed banner
More purple on 4th banner
The 4th banner is one of two 'Greeter' banners. They will flank both sides of the entrance of the Big Top.

Again I used the color purple for the background because of it's strange appeal.
Laying down colors
Like a puzzle, the background colors get laid down in blocks. At first it does not make sense and looks like an abstract painting... but soon all will be revealed.
Astounding 'Greeter' banner
The finished greeter banner. Bright, colorful and a bit frightening. My sentinel to the Big Top.
A close up of the Demons face.
It is here!
While painting the banners, my Big Top arrived by UPS. One more piece to the puzzle... and this was an exciting day!
Nicely boxed
The tent came in 6 large boxes.
Second 'Greeter'
The second 'Greeter' banner was of Pazuzu. This is in the early stages of painting him.
Pazuzu banner
The Pazuzu banner completed.
The final banner background
The final banner took me a while to figure out what it was going to be. I knew I wanted a very dark background.
Laying down the foreground
A dark and strange banner. I enjoyed creating this one because it gives the viewer a sense of foreboding...
Mysteries, Madness and Mayhem
The completed final banner.
Prop hunting
One of the most important things to me is detail. I try and create a complete world that you can fall in to.

These are some of my acquisitions for the inside of the tent.

The trunk is called a Jenny Lind trunk named after Jenny Lind a famous songstress from the 19th Century that P.T. Barnum made famous. This is the type of trunk she carried her personal belongings during her road tours. On top of the trunk is a megaphone used to call the people in before the show.
Old Horn Speakers
Carnival Diablo's Big Top would not be complete without horn speakers hanging on the bannerline announcing the show!
Boxes of chairs
I bought 65 chairs for the Big Top, all brand new.
Unboxed chairs
This pic shows the chairs inside the trailer. I had to make sure that they would all fit. Luckily they did.
Chair details
Every detail is important and I wanted the chairs to have my finger print on them also. So I painted a red star on the backs of each chair.
Banner stakes
I traveled to Quebec to pick up 36 large iron stakes for the bannerline.
A mini stage for Vassago
I wanted to showcase Vassago the Mechanical Marvel the best way possible, so I built a small platform stage.
Michael Kinghorn
My friend Michael Kinghorn created all of the hardware for the bannerline. This was done at Kinghorn Blacksmithing.

Michael is a great artist in his own right.
Working the metal
Michael drilling holes in the metal.
Heating the metal
Michael heated the metal so that he could bend it and shape it.
The finished brackets
All of the hardware ready to be painted and attached to the banner poles.
Banner hardware
Preparing the buckles for the banner corners.
Banner buckles
To hang the banners up on the poles each banner must have reinforced leather and metal corners. You can see the triple seaming on the canvas in this pic also. Everything is built to withstand the worst Canadian weather.
Painting banner poles
As we come to the last tasks in building this Amazing Show, I paint the banner poles.
Kevin lends a hand
My good friend Kevin Preece gives me a hand finishing the painting of the banner poles. Kevin will be coming to work the front of the Big Top.

More pix coming soon...
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